- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 6, 2001

The Bush administration dispatched CIA chief George Tenet to the Middle East yesterday in hopes of extending an uneasy truce and encouraging talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
The CIA was a major player in the Clinton administrations Middle East negotiations, which crumbled into the violence of the intifada last year.
The agency was a trusted link between Palestinian and Israeli security chiefs, who were cooperating at the time to halt terrorism.
Israel declared a cease-fire two weeks ago, and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat declared a cease-fire after a suicide bombing Friday that killed 20 Israeli teen-agers at a Tel Aviv disco.
The announcement by State Department spokesman Richard Boucher that Mr. Tenet would depart for the region today to meet with Israeli and Palestinian security officials came as occasional gunfire rattled the calm.
But an overall reduction in the level of violence was reported for the first time in months of daily fighting.
"Weve seen a lower level of violence in the last 24 hours," Mr. Boucher said.
The Israeli ambassador in Washington agreed.
"There is a reduction of violence," said Ambassador David Ivry in an interview with The Washington Times. "There has been a reduction of incitement. But they are still not jailing those with the intention to bomb the cities of Israel."
Mr. Ivry, a former air force commander, said any fresh suicide bombing "can break all the process started now" to move toward peace.
The lower level of violence led Israel to announce late yesterday that it would loosen its blockade on goods in and out of the Palestinian territories but keep limits on movement of people.
Defense Minister Binyamin Ben Eliezer said Israel would end restrictions on the passage of oil, gas and food products between Israel and the occupied territories.
But hopes for an end to the eight months of fighting that has left about 450 Palestinians and 100 Israelis dead was tempered by conflicting reports on whether the main terrorist groups — Hamas and Islamic Jihad — would rein in their suicide bombers.
A senior political official of Hamas, Ismail Abu Shanab, denied yesterday that the group had agreed to a cease-fire.
And there was no indication that Mr. Arafat was prepared to re-arrest the members of Hamas and other terrorist groups who have been released from jail during the uprising, or intifada, that has raged in the West Bank and Gaza since September.
An Israeli official in Washington, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the danger of more terrorist attacks is high.
"Intelligence information says there are more suicide bombers out there," he said.
"If another one goes off, I dont know if [Israeli Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon can not respond, there is so much public pressure on him.
"We have the information, the Americans have the information, the Palestinians have the information. Arafat has the names — he knows who were released."
The suicide bomber who killed the 20 teen-agers in Tel Aviv Friday was one of those released from jail by the Palestinians, Mr. Ivry said.
In Jerusalem, Mr. Sharon lashed out at Mr. Arafat during an interview with Israels Channel Two television.
"Hes a murderer and a pathological liar," Mr. Sharon said. "Hes not a head of state. There were some people that expected he will behave like a head of state, but he behaves as a head of terrorists and murderers."
In a separate interview with Deutsche Welle radio, Mr. Sharon said Israel was ready for a military strike if necessary to halt Palestinian violence. "We have prepared everything. We know exactly what we have to do," he said.
In Washington, Mr. Boucher said Mr. Tenet would leave for the Middle East by this afternoon and spend several days in the region, where he will coordinate with the Bush administrations special envoy and new assistant secretary of state for Near East affairs, William Burns.
Mr. Tenets new mission is to report on the security situation and to encourage the two sides to cooperate on ending violence, Mr. Boucher said.
Although the Bush administration initially said it would take a more hands-off approach to the Middle East and pull the CIA out of its direct role in the peace process, the rising tide of violence has forced a more active role.


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